They say kidney stone pain is worse than childbirth. What should you do if you're suffering from kidney stones? Phoenix urologist Dr. Hong offers assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney stones. Talking kidney stones with Pat McMahon, host of Morning Scramble on PBS-affiliate AZTV and kidney stone survivor himself.
What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are minerals in your urine that have hardened and become crystallized within the kidney. Urine is a liquid made by the kidney and contains tiny minerals that are removed from your body when you urinate. When the urine becomes concentrated, these minerals can crystallize and become solid, leading to kidney stone formation. If these kidney stones get large, or get caught in the ureter (the tube that connects your kidney to your bladder) on their way out, you may end up in the Emergency Room.
Especially in the summertime, when you may not be drinking enough water, kidney stones can form and grow. That often brings patients to Dr. Hong’s urology office, where patients can seek treatment for a range of conditions.
You may not have symptoms until the stones actually block the flow of urine. It's the back-up of urine, called hydronephrosis, that often causes the symptoms of kidney stones. These include:
- Pain, especially in the upper back
- Blood in urine (hematuria)
- Painful urination
- Urinary urgency or frequency (frequent urge to urinate)
Kidney stones are bad enough, but even worse if you're in horrible pain. If you're in great pain, go immediately to the nearest Emergency Room. If you have a fever, go immediately to the nearest Emergency Room. The doctors there may obtain an X-ray, ultrasound, and/or CT scan to see what is going on. Depending on the size, location and number of kidney stones, as well as your overall health and state of health, one of several options may be available to you. Based on your unique kidney stone situation, Dr. Mark Hong will be able to suggest one of the following options:
- ESWL - extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy, or breaking up the stone using a special machine that focuses energy waves onto the stone to break it up from the outside. It's minimally invasive and safe...almost like stone magic.
- Ureteral stent - usually a very quick procedure to relieve pressure and blockage of the kidney by placing a temporary tube curling from the kidney to the bladder to allow urine to pass around the blocking stone
- Ureteroscopy, laser lithotripsy - using a tiny camera to go directly into the ureter or kidney and use a laser fiber to break up the stone directly and remove the fragments. Also minimally invasive, though it usually requires a ureteral stent to be placed at the same time.
- PCNL - percutaneous nephrolithotomy, or tunneling a tube directly into the kidney through the back to break up and remove kidney stones. Used in cases of very large kidney stones.
- Open kidney surgery - direct removal of kidney stones by exposing the kidney directly and removing stones manually. Rarely used technique these days due to the advance of minimally invasive techniques.
Dr. Hong doesn't like to operate on you over and over for kidney stones. Really. Prevention is more than an ounce of cure, and Dr. Hong believes kidney stones can almost always be prevented. Once you are stone-free, Dr. Hong will initiate a stone prevention workup to try to keep you out of the Emergency Room and Operating Room!
For More Information
If you suspect you have kidney stones, please contact Dr. Hong’s urology office so that we can schedule you for the first available appointment. A consultation and testing can put your mind at ease, whether you require treatment or not.